The Other I

July 20, 2007

The family on the farm: my brother Tom

Filed under: Life as a Nun — theotheri @ 7:46 pm

Despite my original plan devised at the age of seven to escape to New York City, at the age of eighteen I went into the convent instead, joining the Maryknoll missionary sisters.  Before I explain how such a drastic redirection occurred, I will describe my brothers and sisters.  There were ten of us altogether, so it will take a few postings to accomplish this.

Tom is my older brother by a year.  Mostly that made us equals.  I respected his areas of male competence and I was granted superiority in everything else.  He loved the fields and was intrinsically a much more gifted farmer than my father.  He was also a good mechanic.  At about the age of 12 he had the tractor apart in the garage.  I was appalled at what looked to me like an act of methodical terrorism, but Tom, unperturbed, bit by bit put it back together, and to my astonishment it worked.  After that, it never occurred to me to try to fix things for myself.  If something was broken, Tom would be able to figure out how to fix it if anyone other than God could make it work again. 

Tom and I were acknowledged authorities in the family after Mom and Dad, and our word was law with our younger brothers and sisters.  The defense “Terry said I could do it,” worked just as well as “Mom said…”  Tom says he knows women are as smart as men because I was smarter than he was.  That make him a pretty fantastic brother for a sister to have, though I might not have fully appreciated it at the time.  I didn’t know I was smart;  I just thought I knew more than most everybody else because, along with Tom, I was the oldest.  But I did know we worked together to try to raise parents fit for the modern world.  It was a tough battle, but things were working out pretty well until I entered the convent, and then Mom died and the whole project fell tragically apart. 

If I wanted to go to New York, Tom wanted to buy a farm in Alaska.  In the end, he became an mechanical engineer rather than a farmer, and worked for General Motors until he retired.  Now he and his wife hike, and kayak, and bicycle around the world.  They are on the road more often than they are at home.  His children are the most important things in the world to him, but we still discuss the philosphical issues of life and love.  Is there a God, does the Roman Catholic Church more harm or good, what’s the purpose of life, and all the other imponderables and unanswerables we spent so many hours discussing as children around the dinner table.

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